Friday, December 3, 2010

How I Became a Gun Owner

I am an enthusiastic gun owner.  I have been for  about six years.  The question becomes "Why does someone in his 30's suddenly decide to start acquiring guns?"

My journey toward gun ownership is rather inextricable from my journey toward conservatism.   For much of my life, I thought of myself as a liberal.  I wasn't really, but I hadn't come to that realization yet.  I am and was raised in a Mormon household, and hold to those beliefs.  Already, anyone familiar with traditional Mormon beliefs can see that I was far from being an actual liberal, but my parents were firm Democrats.  My father, as well as my grandfather, were railroaders, and union men.   Then I started to get some actual life experience.

When I was young, I had only a little interest in guns.  It wasn’t that I was anti-gun, but is pretty apathetic toward gun ownership.  I generally felt that some sort of gun-control was necessary to prevent insane individuals from entering into public places and shooting unarmed people.  I had no idea how this was to be done.

My first shooting experience was when I was about 7.  I was playing with the next door neighbor. He was a bit older than me, and had a BB gun.  He let me shoot it a couple of times.  I had asked my dad for one, but he didn't want to get me one.  He said that they were too dangerous, but upon reflection, I'm pretty sure he just didn't want to go to the effort it would have taken to teach me how to use it properly.  It took too much away from TV watching.  I would be left to do all of my shooting activities in the Cub and Boy Scouts for the next little while.

I next did a little shooting at a Cub Scout day camp.  My dad didn't seem to mind, which would tend to confirm my belief that he just didn't want to be bothered.  Of course, since I was young, I didn't realize that it was an excuse.

It would be a few years before I would be able to do any more shooting.  The summer I was 12, my cousin came from Kansas City for a visit.  He had gone to scout camp, and had tried for his Rifle and Shotgun merit badge and failed to get it.   He was on the competitive side (but nothing compared to his father my uncle E) we had been doing some other sporting activity.  I have always sucked at sports.  My cousin was more gifted.  He had to be.  If he weren't his father would have never have even claimed him.

We had been doing something something sports related.  I don't remember what it was, but I hadn't done it before, and I sucked at it.  My cousin made fun of me, and rather pissed me off.  I had already registered to go to scout camp, and it was coming up in a couple of weeks.  I had signed up for several merit badges, but I decided then and there that I would do whatever I could to get MY merit badge.  I had to do something better than he could.

When I went to Scout Camp, I started working on all of my Merit Badges.  Unfortunately I needed to spend so much time at the range that I could only work on a single other Merit Badge.  I managed to get Rifle and Shotgun. It took a lot of work, a lot of .22 ammo, most of my time for the whole week, and a lot of help from my Scoutmaster.

When my cousin heard that I had gotten a sports related merit badge that he couldn't get, he was somewhat annoyed, but my uncle E was livid.  He couldn't stomach that I had done something better than his spawn. 

The next year, he brought a BB gun when he came to visit, and we borrowed one from my Grandpa, and we ran around the neighborhood having fun.  We weren't exactly responsible, but nothing bad happened.  The next Christmas, I asked my Grandma for a BB gun, and I got a decent Daisy repeater air rifle.  My cousin got one like it.  By then he had moved much closer, so we saw each other more frequently.  We had great fun with our guns.

Over the next few years, I kept the squirrels out of the nut and fruit trees around the neighborhood, I did a lot of target shooting, and in general had fun.

Then I got into computers.  The BB gun went to storage, and I played with my computer.  I finished High School, and went to a year of college.  Then I went on my mission.

On my mission, I went to the Dominican Republic, and then because I got sick, I was sent to Maryland. Here was where I started my journey toward conservativism.  In the Dominican Republic, I encountered actual poverty.  Although I didn't really connect it until later, I witnessed the actual effects that the "evil American capitalists" were having on that country.  They were building factories, and paying the workers.  They were paying what we would consider slave wages, but were about five times the going wages from local employers.  Hideous I know.

Even worse, their employees weren't as productive as they could be because they were sick, so they bullied and bribed the local government into providing proper sanitation, and they provided classes in home sanitation.  They built apartments for employees and their families to live in, so they could get out of the palm frond, or even garbage huts they lived in before.  The apartments had flush toilets and running water, rather than having to use a communal latrine.  They had kitchens, rather than having to cook over charcoal purchased that day.  There was refrigeration, rather than having purchase food fresh daily.  Then they taught them how to use and maintain these things.

Of course they didn’t just give the people these things.  They gave them the opportunity to work for them.  Simply giving someone something makes them dependent, and doesn’t turn out as good of workers. They were taught to earn it for themselves, and that they could keep what they earned.

When I went to Maryland.  I met some actual liberals.  It was in Maryland that I first realized that I wasn't all that liberal, but I couldn't admit it to myself.  I met radical feminists, militant homosexuals, and the like.  I still thought of myself as a Democrat, but I realized that I was nothing like a liberal.  I still held a rather anti-capitalist attitude, and felt that I was somehow better than people motivated by money.

After I came home, I started into the local university, and received a wonderfully socialistic indoctrination.   I got involved in Linux, and the Open Source/Free Software movement.  What these are, and the difference between them is beyond the scope of this article, but perhaps one day, I’ll write a little more about that.  To keep matters short, I became deeply involved in the advocacy of Open Source or Free Software.  Some individuals in these movements have very socialistic leanings, and tend to be a little heavy handed in their advocacy.  I began to notice some of this behavior, and started to wonder.  That is not to say that the Open Source movement is socialistic.  There is also a very prominent libertarian faction, as well as a small number of conservatives.

The Clinton administration didn't help the liberal cause.  Clinton was a slime ball, and I became rather antipathetic toward politics.  I had voted for Ross Perot the first time, because I couldn't bring myself to vote Republican, and Clinton was so bad. I even considered starting the "anti-incumbent" party, which would endorse whoever wasn't the incumbent, or lacking an incumbent, whoever wasn't in the incumbent party.  In the case of a third party candidate, the endorsement would go to that candidate if he stood a chance of winning, or if a particular winner was basically a foregone conclusion.

Then came my first real realization as to some of my particular problems with liberalism.  I was doing my taxes.  I had an actual job, and although I wasn’t earning a lot, I was earning some.  I did my taxes, and didn’t understand a lot of it.  I did know how much I had paid in however.  Somehow I had gotten back three times what I put in.  That didn’t seem right.  I checked it again, very carefully.  The numbers checked out.  I found this part called “Earned Income Credit.”  Without that part, the numbers looked about right.  I asked my mother about it, and come to find out this is a feature.

I eventually mentioned it to some of the more liberal students and professors at the university.  I was told that it was a wonderful program for redistributing wealth.  I had a serious problem with that.  First, the government is stealing money from those who did earn it, and giving it to people who, like me, did not earn it.  I had a serious problem with that.

For the most part, however, I remained apathetic.  I was uninvolved in politics in general.  Then came September 11th.  That was really a turning point for me.  Evan Sayet said it better than I could.  In "How Modern Liberals Think", he gives a parable.   He tells about a guy who is always complaining about his wife. He's always talking about how terrible his wife is.  Now his friend is talking to him one day in a restaurant, and looks out the window, and sees his wife being beaten by a gang.  He says "Come on, your wife is being beaten, let's go help her".  The man says "No, whatever it is, I'm sure she deserved it."

This was my experience on 9/11.  We were attacked, thousands of Americans died in a cowardly and unprovoked attack, and the response I heard from people in the university I where I was working and going to school.  I heard how we deserved it, and the implication of how those who worked there also deserved it.  I saw the media deliberately distorting the story, and deliberately sanitizing it to make it seem less horrific than it was

That was when I truly realized that liberalism was completely bankrupt morally, ethically, and in every other way conceivable.  I began to reexamine other viewpoints that I had shared with those "people."

I had also watched a show on the History Channel about Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle.  He was a communist, and wrote The Jungle, not to showcase the need for an FDA like I was taught in school, but to show the evils of capitalism.   I had seen how badly communism had failed, but the History Channel show made it sound like a good deal.  It actually made me a bit sick.  The real telling thing was when I first tuned in.

I had been raised by union workers.  I had been taught how great unions are.  In the show, it showed a dramatization of Upton Sinclair (although I hadn't been watching long enough to know who the show was talking about) going to a  meeting.  I hadn’t figured out even what the show was, but they had speaker spouting pro-worker propaganda.  It was some of the same things I’d heard when listening to my father or grandfather talk about unions.  I was only half watching, but I figured it was a union organization meeting. When I found out it was actually a depiction a communist rally, I was somewhat disturbed that it was basically impossible to tell the difference between union propaganda, and communist propaganda.

Along about this time, I had another epiphany.  I was on my way to pick up my paycheck, and was thinking about how I had no problem paying taxes.  They weren't that much, and they did a lot of good.  When I went to pick up my check, I looked at how much my gross pay was.  I had done it before, but I had never really taken stock of just how much the government was stealing from me.  I wasn't making that much, but was having more than a third confiscated from me.  I would get some of it back in tax return, but only a small fraction of it and, of course, there is the promise of social security when I retire, but I'm starting to think that wishing on a star might be a more reliable retirement plan.

I began to become interested in my rights, and I started to read about the philosophies that this country was founded on.  I found web pages by geeks, like myself, who were not liberals, and started to read what they had to say.  I started to think about getting a gun, as it was clear to me that gun ownership was the most effective way for the populace to guard against tyranny.  The problem was that guns aren't cheap.  If someone tells you they are, either they've looked somewhere I've never been able to find, they're lying, or they have no idea what they're talking about.   Whenever I had money, it went toward more computer equipment.

By this time, I had basically become a conservative.  I was watching what the liberals said, and did.  I was watching how it worked. I was observing history, and noting that we were repeating it.  We were allowing our country to move toward a more statist stance.  I began to wonder if gun ownership and perhaps violent revolution may, one day, be necessary to restore our liberties.

Then one day, I had a minor lapse of sanity.  My mother and my aunt go to yard sales every Saturday during the summer.  I tended to lose sanity and go with them once per year.  I had my sanity lapse this day.  We were checking out yard sales, and I was becoming annoyed with myself and my mother and my aunt.  They were checking out the dumbest yard sales, and staying forever at places that had nothing.

Then we stopped at a yard sale, and I saw a semi-auto .30-06 rifle.  I wasn't particularly initiated into guns at the time, so I had no idea what kind it was (and I can't remember enough about it now to tell), or if it was in any kind of good shape.  It was only a couple of hundred dollars, I passed.  I wasn't thinking clearly because I was upset.

Later I started considering the political situation.  John Kerry was running for president, and it was looking like he had a chance.  He had gone on the record as to supporting all manner of gun-control.  I wanted to get a gun before he had a chance to screw everything up.  I was kicking myself for passing on that rifle at the yard sale.

I spoke to my father and grand-father about it.  Since I had a fair amount of money at the time, I could actually afford several guns.  We decided to make the rounds on gun stores to see what they had.  There was one problem however.  I have poor vision in my right eye, I have to shoot rifles left handed.  We needed a semi-auto, a pump action, or a left-handed bolt.  I had no idea at the time, but left-handed bolt action rifles are a bit of a rarity, and generally must be special ordered.

We hit a couple of gun shops in the area, and I didn't seen what I wanted.  Then we hit a Sports Authority.  Someone had ordered a Remington 700 BDL left handed bolt there at least a year earlier, and had never picked it up.  They were practically giddy when I wanted to buy it.  It was taking up space, and although it's an excellent firearm, a left-handed gun isn't nearly as easy to sell.

Over the next little while, I acquired several more guns.  Both pistols and rifles. I started reloading, and now reload for everything I shoot, I acquired a concealed weapons license.  I read everything I could about various types of guns, ammunition, and I acquired several books.  I began to advocate for the Second Amendment, and I joined the NRA.

I have not been able to go shooting as often as I would like, and I haven't done any reloading in over a year and a half, as life has gotten complicated, but I still love guns and shooting.  I still carry habitually when I can, and I'm saving for more training.  I've convinced my wife to get a concealed weapons license, and we're currently waiting for that to come through.

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